The UK Portman Group organised an interesting debate in December on Alcohol and Sport, entitled ‘Booze, Balls and Boundaries: commentaries on alcohol and sport’. The gist of the debate was a verdict by those involved in sport that, in contrast to other icons from TV or the pop world, they are a good model of sobriety. For to be a top sportsperson, you need to be fit and would only drink in moderation. They did not see alcohol sponsorship of teams or clubs as a bad example to the young and felt the any encouragement of sports from grass roots level can only lead to good in an increasingly ‘couch potato’ society.
On cue with this message, Carling, the UK’s biggest selling lager, launched a unique TV advertising campaign to promote sensible drinking. The campaign on Scottish TV channels in December, unites Old Firm Football Managers Alex McLeish and Martin O’Neill to deliver a stay sober but have fun message to Scottish drinkers. Mark Hunter, of Carling’s parent company Coors Brewers Limited commented: “We at Carling are proud to use the scale of our brand and our unique position as Old Firm sponsors to help drive home the responsible drinking message in this high profile way and are delighted with the co-operation we have received from the clubs.” The ads feature the men in a lively bar setting. O’Neill advises drinkers to ‘…try not to hit the bar too often’, whilst McLeish says ‘if you’re going to chat someone up, it helps if you can speak’. Both ads end with the message from Carling ‘Enjoy your night. Take it Easy’.
Alex McLeish said: “As manager of Rangers Football Club, I am keen to promote sensible drinking and was delighted to be able to participate in this campaign to help deliver this important message ”. Carling worked closely with the Scottish Health Executive and Alcohol Focus Scotland to ensure that their ads complement existing campaigns and supports the Scottish Alcohol Strategy. Interestingly the personalities were not paid.
Deputy Minister for Health Tom McCabe said: “Changing cultures surrounding drinking is a key aim of the Executive’s Plan for Action on alcohol problems, published in January 2002. The Plan sets out a range of action to reduce alcohol-related harm, but makes clear that changing Scotland’s long standing drinking patterns cannot be achieved by the Executive alone. It requires a concerted effort from a range of bodies including the drinks industry, and the campaign....is exactly the kind of initiative we want to encourage.”
Finding role models for predominently male binge drinkers is not an easy task, encouraging prominent sports personalities to promote moderation makes sense.